A U.S. citizen was sentenced Thursday to 2 1/2 years in prison for insulting the king of Thailand.
The American Embassy responded by saying the sentence was too harsh and a violation of free-speech rights. Yet American citizen Joe Gordon (born Lerpong Wichaikhammat), 55, is heading to prison for translating a banned biography of Thailand's king and posting it online while he lived in Colorado.
The Thai-born man was convicted and sentenced of defaming Thailand's royal family. Gordon stood calmly with his ankles shackled in an orange prison uniform as the sentence was read out at a Bangkok criminal court, according to The Associated Press.
The judge involved in the sentencing said Gordon's punishment was reduced from five years to 2 1/2 since Gordon pleaded guilty to the charge in October. Gordon's lawyer said his client will not appeal the sentence, but will apply for a royal pardon instead.
Gordon had poted links to the biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, which is banned in Thailand, while living in the U.S. several years before. The case holds particular interest, AP reported, since it has raised questions about the applicability of Thai law to acts committed by foreigners outside Thailand.
Said Gordon after the sentence: I am an American citizen, and what happened was in America. This is just the system in Thailand.
Elizabeth Pratt, consul general for the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, said in an interview with reporters in Washington that she thought the sentence was severe because he has been sentenced for his right to freedom of expression.
We continue to have full support for the Thai monarchy but will also continue to support the right to freedom of expression, which is an international human right, she said, according to The Los Angeles Times.
Gordon told reporters in court that he is not Thai, even though he was born in the country.
In Thailand, they put people in jail without proof, he said. I was born in Thailand, but this does not mean I am Thai. I am proud to be an American citizen.